Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Gorsuch Nomination For SCOTUS As Dems Plan Filibuster

President Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gorsuch, cleared an important hurdle to the nation’s highest bench with the Senate Judiciary Committee’s party-line 11-9 vote Monday to advance his confirmation to the Senate floor. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats secured the numbers to filibuster Gorsuch before his up-or-down floor vote slated for later this week.

“Judge Gorsuch is eminently qualified. He’s a mainstream judge who’s earned the universal respect of his colleagues on the bench and in the bar,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said in his opening remarks before the vote.

It was expected that Gorsuch would sail through the committee vote. Still, Monday’s meeting brought the announcements from enough Democrats, including committee’s top Dem, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), that they would oppose Gorsuch and join their colleagues in filibustering Gorsuch to put Democrats at the 41-vote threshold to oppose what is known as cloture.

“Our job is to assess whether the nominee will protect the legal and constitutional rights of all Americans, and whether the nominee recognizes the humanity and justice required when evaluating the cases before him,” Feinstein said. “Unfortunately, based on Judge Gorsuch’s record at the Department of Justice, his tenure on the bench, his appearance before the Senate and his written questions for the record, I cannot support this nomination.”

Monday’s vote brings the confirmation battle one step closer to a major  showdown over long-standing Senate procedural rules. Led by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Democrats have promised to filibuster Gorsuch.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has returned those filibuster threats with hints that he will lead his caucus in getting rid of the filibuster on Supreme Court nominees altogether, the so-called “nuclear option.”

“What I can tell you is that Neil Gorsuch will be confirmed this week,” McConnell said Sunday on Meet the Press. “How that happens really depends on our Democratic friends, how many of them are willing to oppose cloture on a partisan basis to kill a Supreme Court nominee, never happened before in history, the whole history of the country.”

In addition to the Judiciary Committee Democrats who announced at Monday’s vote their plans to filibuster Gorsuch, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) released a statement indicating his intention to vote against cloture. Judiciary Committee member Sen. Chris Coons’s (D-DE) announcement towards the end of Monday’s meeting that would filibuster Gorsuch pushed Democrats to the 41 votes they need to block the judge from receiving an up-or-down vote under current Senate rules.

“I am not ready to end debate on this issue, so I will be voting against cloture unless we are able, as a body, to finally sit down and find a way to avoid the nuclear option,” Coons said.

Gorsuch moved through his confirmation hearings last month without major scandal or political misstep, but many Democrats are not yet willing to let their GOP counterparts off the hook for Republicans’ unprecedented blockade of President Obama’s nominee for the vacancy, Judge Merrick Garland. They have also raised concerns about Gorsuch’s conservative legal approach, oft-compared to the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who Gorsuch would replace. Democrats have also bashed Gorsuch for dodging their questions during the confirmation process and have taken issue with the dark money campaign that is supporting his nomination.

Schumer, also appearing Sunday on Meet the Press, predicted that it was “highly unlikely” Gorsuch would get the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture and avoid the filibuster.

“It looks like Gorsuch will not reach the 60-vote margin,” Schumer said. “So instead of changing the rules, which is up to Mitch McConnell and the Republican majority, why doesn’t President Trump, Democrats, and Republicans in the Senate, sit down, and try to come up with a mainstream nominee?​”

Gorsuch, 49, hails from Colorado where he sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

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